Rahul Dravid,Head of Cricket at the National Cricket Academy, talks to TOI on the challenges of training players during lockdown, programmes for the junior cricketers, and plans for the upcoming season. Excerpts:
Has the NCA devised any programmes for India’s under-19 and ‘A’ teams during this period of lockdown?
Our strength and conditioning experts (S&Cs) and physios are in constant touch with them, monitoring players’ programmes and loads. Since some cricketers are recuperating from injuries, they require a different level of attention. Even with the training programmes, it isn’t quite possible for all the guys to go for a run.
Some have access to gyms but most don’t, so the coaches have had to become creative and provide the athletes the best possible solution, keeping in mind that the players need to at least maintain current strength and conditioning levels, if not become better.
How is their fitness being monitored?
The training is different for different individuals and is largely based on what is available and how we can use it best. We have to be flexible in our approach. Metrics that we use in a normal situation include weights lifted, distance run, and exertion levels. These get uploaded on our Athlete Management System (AMS), which we use to track all the athletes.
However, during this unique time, our S&Cs have had to be more flexible and the metrics range from “number of sessions” done for someone with basic home facilities to our usual metrics for someone who has access to in-house gyms.
All contracted players are being offered support online and being checked regularly to ensure they are safe and taking good care. This includes their injury management and injury-prevention programmes as well as the training programmes. There is regular communication between the NCA staff and all the players.
Is there any fitness audit for the previous season, in terms of injury management?
Ashish (Kaushik, NCA physio) and his team had workshops with physios of all domestic teams during the Vijay Hazare (Trophy) earlier in the season. After that, they have gone about collecting medical and injury-related data of a lot of state cricketers. The communication pipeline that has been set up will allow us to track players and manage injuries better.
Additionally, every injury is reviewed from a point of view of protocols followed, timelines met in terms of recovery and relapse, if any. We are aware that we are in such a competitive environment now that injuries will be put through the scanner, therefore having good process is key. We have been working well towards that.
Also, the more data we can collect with regards to our men and women cricketers, the better position we will be in to set standards and protocols all the way down to the first-class and junior teams. We were hoping to continue this in our camps this summer.
Additionally, we have identified that a lot of the injuries can stem from medical deficiencies or poor training practices. One of the key reasons to conduct the S&C workshop therefore was to ensure good practices are taught and standardised. Having good, knowledgeable coaches in the ecosystem will ensure athletes are fitter right from a young age and in turn ensure there are less injuries when they reach the top level.
As NCA director, how are you going to plan for the next season?
It is best to wait and watch. There are much larger things at play and the future is uncertain. All our camps for the summer, which is a busy time for NCA, have had to be put on hold. The monsoon which arrives in most parts of India from June will add to the challenges.
We do have a few contingency plans in place. Safety is the priority for everyone right now. Once things become clearer, we will be able to react. I guess that’s true of all sport in the world.
The NCA has appointed batting and bowling coaches too. What are they doing during the lockdown?
It is great to have a group of highly experienced and qualified coaches working together at the NCA. It just allows us to broaden our horizons and provide more support to all the athletes that we are involved with.
We have had coaches who have been working with the under-19 cricketers and India ‘A’ and women’s teams, also providing support to athletes that come to the NCA for short upskilling stints or even some minor corrections/adjustments during rehab.